This week's book giveaway is in the OO, Patterns, UML and Refactoring forum. We're giving away four copies of Refactoring for Software Design Smells: Managing Technical Debt and have Girish Suryanarayana, Ganesh Samarthyam & Tushar Sharma on-line! See this thread for details.
in January 2007 I finished the Sun Certifies Java Associate Exam with 96 Percent, which is 49 correct answers out of 51 questions. Hopefully the following summary of my experience will be of some use for you.
With a degree in Computer Science and Business Administration and 3 years of experience in the Web Applications team for a German Internet Bank I didn�t had to start from scratch.
First of all I worked through the Sun CD-Rom about the Fundamentals of the Java Programming Language (CDJ-110A), which was a good exercise. There is also an online J2EE Platform Overview for Managers (WJTP-310), which is not cheap but gives you a fair amount of information about the standards used in the Java World and how everything fits together.
From Amazon I got two EXAMSCAM books from Cameron McKenzie. The book CERTIFICATION STUDY GUIDE explains what you need to know about SCJA. The book THE EXAM QUESTIONS contains a lot of questions and answers. From Cameron I learned to focus on the SCJA objectives and on nothing else. Almost every page is telling you what you need to know to be successful in the exam and what you don�t need to remember. Cameron helps you to stay on focus. In the first printout I detected a few minor things, but Cameron got a lot of feedback from me and his students, he improved his books quickly all the time and I think they are very good now. You also always get a good feedback from Cameron on Java Ranch. Thank you Cameron!
Sun also recommends you on its web sites some free online material, like the UML PDF document and the Java and J2EE specification. This is very helpful as well. I heard of a student who made the exam using only this stuff, but he must have been a genius. The most valuable one is the UML PDF, because the people who made it are the ones who were writing the exam questions.
Sun also recommends you to buy the Head First Java book from Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates, which is easy to read and a lot of fun. This way you can learn a lot as well. The books contains more Java programming stuff than you need for the SCJA exam, but it is never bad to have a good background knowledge. Thank you Kathy and Bert!
Sun also offers three sample exams you can buy. If you do each of them in 2 hours you can simulate the exam in a good way.
Java Ranch helped me a lot to discuss critical issues and also there are links to free Mock SCJA questions and answers.
Shortly before the exam I also purchased a good exam simulator from Whizlab with a few hundred questions and answers.
Also it is not a bad idea to print out the exam objectives and study them carefully. In addition I wrote my own glossary with a lot of definitions I got from Wikipedia.
In the exam itself I was not allowed to bring a laptop or mobile or any study material.
First I was confused because I got a few question from Sun which have nothing to do with the exam, like one where you are invited to rank your own Java skills yourself. I was afraid that the clock is already running down, but this was not the case.
Then I got the real exam questions. It was good that you know exactly how many answers are correct, they tell you for example to choose 2 answers out of 4. Also you see the clock running down, which gives you a good feedback how many time is left.
I was going through the questions within an hour in a fast but concentrated way. Then I went over all questions again to correct myself. The last 5 minutes I used to check if I had given the exact number of answers. For example when there is a question where they want 3 answers and you give only 2 then you lost a point.
At the end I did not stop until the clock was runnig down.
My next target is Sun Certified Java Programmer (SCJP).
The company I was working for as Java Developer is not on the market anymore. In my new insurance company is just starting to use Java and I hope I can be part of it.
Study hard but take your breaks, read as much as you can, program your own code snippets and make it happen!